Grading the Rebels: Texas A&M scoops and scores in win over Ole Miss
Ole Miss has had a common theme in its losses this season: Those to Memphis, California and Missouri were all by 11 points are less.
When the game was over against SEC West foe Texas A&M (4-3, 2-2 SEC) at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, the margin was seven points, as yet again Ole Miss (3-5, 2-3) found itself on the losing end.
Simply put, Ole Miss and head coach Matt Luke cannot win a close game this season.
The Rebels didn’t respond after picking off Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond twice; in fact, it was A&M that capitalized on an arrant fumble by quarterback John Rhys Plumlee, which proved to be the difference. Defensive lineman Buddy Johnson scampered 62 yards to give the Aggies a 17-14 lead late in the third quarter, one they would never relinquish.
The loss sits squarely on the offense and the game plan. The defense, while young and inexperienced, continues to improve. It held Mond and the A&M offense to 165 yards rushing and 172 through the air. It also forced Mond into two picks that set up the Ole Miss offense to score.
True to form, Ole Miss squandered both opportunities.
The most impressive stat could be that the Aggies were only 3-of-13 on third down, a big win for Ole Miss defensive coordinator Mike MacIntyre.
The Rebels played well enough to win. The same could be said for last week’s game against Missouri. While the Rebels could be sitting at 7-1 or 6-2, they have only three wins, and they squandered a huge opportunity to take a big step toward a bowl game.
What started out as a novelty has turned into a big ball of indecision in regards to the quarterback position. Neither Matt Corral nor Plumlee is playing well enough to separate himself as the clear leader. With both having different skill sets, I spent the better part of the second half scratching my head, wondering what Ole Miss offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez was even doing.
The pair combined for 155 yards through the air, and Plumlee didn’t have the success on the ground he had last week as A&M limited him to 38 yards. What Ole Miss did early was rely on freshman Jerrion Ealy, who turned a few heads on his 69-yard touchdown run. Add the opening drive of the second half and you have nearly the entire scoring output for the night.
The Rebels ended up with 405 yards of total offense, 68 more than the Aggies, but had only 17 points to show for it.
Elijah Moore again led the receivers with five catches as the quarterbacks combined to complete only 14 passes.
The defense was splendid against the versatile A&M attack. Between limiting third-down conversions and corralling a running game led by Isaiah Spiller, the Reb defense proved it is heads above last season. The defensive busts are few and far between, and the tackling is much improved. Linebacker Lakia Henry had big game, finishing with nine tackles, while defensive back Jalen Julius finished with six stops and had one tackle for loss.
Special teams: D
If you’re wondering, the grade this week is based on the ineffectiveness of the field-goal unit. Placekicker Luke Logan missed a 50-yard kick and had a crucial kick blocked midway through the third quarter that would have tied the score at 17.
The kick coverage unit was just as bad, allowing four punt returns for 65 yards, with the longest a 34-yarder by Ainias Smith.
Punter Mac Brown did well, averaging 44.8 yards and pinning the Aggies inside the 20-yard line twice.
Ole Miss will enjoy a bye week before it faces Auburn on the Plains in two weeks. The bye comes at a good time, as the Rebs are a banged-up team. Ealy left the game in the first half with an undisclosed illness. Offensive linemen Ben Brown and Eli Johnson left with ankle injuries. We also learned that running back Scottie Phillips “twisted” his knee and will have it evaluated.
“We certainly didn’t play our best, but we played our guts out. We just have to use the open date and get healthy.” — Luke
“I felt the drive we had to open the second half was big (when Ole Miss scored), but the (scoop and score) turnover was the key in this game.” — Luke
“We fit the runs tonight, and our secondary is getting better. They are fighting as hard as they can, and the secondary is continuing to get better. The pass rush is the best pass defense, as we have been working hard at that. We just played tighter in the secondary and worked hard on it all week.” — MacIntyre
“I don’t care what people think about running a two-QB system, we do it all week in practice. It is tougher with them being freshmen, but a lot of the players on offense are freshmen. A lot of these guys are playing in a new system and -are getting better.” — Rodriguez